Climate Change Archives - Earth Charter

Earth Charter Youth Group to Advisor to the Ministry of Environment: Esther Kelechi Agbarakwe of Nigeria

esther-kelechi-agbarakweMy name is Esther Abgarakwe. I´m from Nigeria. My friends call me ¨Esther Climate¨—it´s a long story! I started an Earth Charter Youth Group in 2006 in Calabar. At that time, the Earth Charter was active in Nigeria but there was not much youth participation. It really pushed me to lobby and advocate for youth participation on environmental issues.

At that time, I participated in an Earth Charter E-Glo (Earth Charter Global Learning Opportunity) training programme that taught me a lot about social media. My first contact with blogging was through that programme and my blog won me a scholarship to go to a Conference in Scotland. That was my first travel abroad experience, and from that conference I met amazing people like the Elders. I asked one of them an interesting question in that forum and that sort of got me remembered around the world.

Since then, I have been working with the Elders for many years, now with a project call the Elders + Youngers project. It has been the biggest project of my life because I´ve gotten to work with four amazing people: Mary Robinson, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Desmond Tutu, and Fernando Cardoso.

esther-kelechi-agbarakwe-climate-actionFrom the blogging I learned from E-Glo, I´ve continued blogging a lot. Blogging has given me the opportunity to talk about so many things I like. One of the micro-blogs I use a lot is Facebook. On Facebook, I changed my time to ¨Esther Climate¨ because I wanted to interrupt conversations about politics among young people and intercept that with environmental issues and climate change—so I changed my name to ¨Esther Climate.¨

And the name stuck. When people see it, they pause and think, ¨Why Esther Climate?¨ And that´s an opportunity to change someone´s mindset, to raise awareness or improve knowledge in someone around environmental issues. They would ask the question about the name, and I would reply ¨Yes—this is what it means…¨ and then talk to them about climate change.

My favorite Earth Charter Principle is the first one- Care for the Community of Life. I love it because it makes me feel more connected to the human species and everything that is on Earth—whether it is a fly, a human being, or a plant. The Earth Charter was really my first entry into environmental issues. Its principles expanded my mind to see things differently (unusual as it may be where I come from). It could really interest you to know that Earth Charter covers a whole wide range of issues, from faith to humanity.

esther-kelechi-agbarakwe-workingNow I work as an Advisor to the Minister of the Environment. This is my career now; I think I´ll do environmental work for the rest of my life. And the [Earth Charter] Principle is still there.

When I was invited to join the Minister of the Environment as an Advisor, it was a dream come true. I accepted it of course! [Deputy Secretary General-Designate Amina J Mohammed] is an amazing person and [this job] has been the best thing of my life. I can see hands on the change I wanted to see happen. I’m the only young advisor—but it´s [youth] participation. We are moving from rhetoric to action. Young people have a lot of offer—they have experience, they have a vision, they are creative, and can do a lot!

Right now, I do a lot with technology which plays a big role in my work in terms of mobilizing young people—not only mobilizing them, but also empowering them, connecting them to resources, and giving them an opportunity to be informed on issues that affect them. In the next 40 years, they may have to lead.

I do all the creative stuff in the Ministry—communications, stake holders engagement, traveling around to all these Conferences to help to lobby because I understand the dynamics.

esther-kelechi-agbarakwe-radio-interviewIt gives me renewed hope that young people are now at the table, not just on the menu. The government recognizes their importance now. I remember when we used to scream and shout ¨I want to be involved! I want to be involved!¨ Now we are involved. That´s the biggest thing that´s happening for us.

I have my Earth Charter in Action book in my room. I don´t joke with it. I read it a lot. It reminds you where you´re going. It gives you that inspiration to keep going because it´s hard sometimes. It´s fun a lot of the time, but you always get to a crossroad at some point in your life. You have to look back and see that we´ve come a long way.


This interview of Esther Kelechi Agbarakwe was conducted in November 2016 by Earth Charter International Youth Projects Coordinator, Sarah Dobson, at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco. The content has been edited for clarity and flow.

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COP22 and the ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreat in Marrakesh

From 5 to 13 November, 2016, the Earth Charter International Youth Projects´ Coordinator Sarah Dobson visited the beautiful city of Marrakech, Morocco with a two-part mission: to connect with young leaders and civil society organizations from around the world at COP22, and to participate in the ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ programme for young ecologists.

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COP22, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, convened government officials from around the world to create international policies and strategies to combat climate change along with thousands from civil society who joined to influence and report on the negotiations and build networks and partnerships. Sarah met with young leaders from Morocco and every region of the world who are working, studying, innovating, and living with the urgent and earnest intention to transform our lifestyles and current systems to align with the protection and preservation of our planet. She met with people working in different youth networks with specializations in education, social entrepreneurship, science and research, and activism and explored ways that the Earth Charter can serve them whether as an ethical guide, a shared vision, or through our online trainings in ¨ Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics. ¨

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After a few days at the Conference, Sarah joined the first ¨The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreat, unique programme series organized to foster dialogue and discovery. Earth Charter International served as a co-partner to the event which was organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) and sponsored by the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association (DDMBA).

The 4-day programme brought together 20 young ecologists from 14 African nations: Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Nambia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They were joined by ecology experts and spiritual leaders of various traditions and backgrounds.

The first days were spent discussing problems and solutions from the African perspective in the areas of biodiversity, water, and agriculture before the conversation turned inward considering the attitude and paradigm which allow these problems to persist and have prevented a large scale shift toward sustainability.

dialogue-session

Woven throughout the discussions, the mentors shared their stories and wisdom. Ven. Bhante Duddharakita from Uganda spoke of the need to reduce not only carbon emissions, but greed emissions. Sraddhalu Ranade from India spoke of the androcentric and reductionist mindsets which have led us to the point of crisis. Tiokasin Ghosthorse from the Lakota Nation in North America spoke of how our language separates us from Mother Earth, pretending to be superior and separate to Mother Earth and inventing notions such as domination and ownership. We reflected on a paradigm shift to relationship with all life and contemplated how to retain and relearn knowledge cultivated and held by indigenous peoples.

The youth delegates and spiritual mentors brought their wisdom to the COP22, presenting ¨the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ as a side event which drew great attention and curiosity as it offered a deep, honest conversation about climate and our own intimate relationship with one another and Earth. The final day together was spent in a small Berber village nestled in the Atlas Mountains where the group shared delicious Moroccan tea and food and a final dialogue circle of reflection and gratitude.

inner-dimensions-side-event-cop22

This program was the first in a series of regional ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreats which will gather young ecologists and spiritual mentors to examine the deeper causes and solutions to climate change which begin with our mindset and relationship to the Earth. All youth delegates and mentors from each regional meeting are then expected to then gather together in 2018 to continue building bridges and relationships and strengthen the movement toward a more life sustaining paradigm and way of living.

 

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The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change: Young Ecologists Turn Inward

From 18 to 23 January 2017, thirty young ecologists from the Americas and Caribbean working in fields related to environmental education, conservation and climate activism came to Costa Rica for a retreat on the ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change.¨ Earth Charter International (ECI) collaborated with The Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) and the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association (DDMBA) to bring together young people with mentors from different spiritual traditions to uncover the deeper root causes of the climate crisis to inform our individual, organization, and systemic work in creating solutions.

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Participants and mentors spent their first day at the Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development where the ECI Youth Project´s Coordinator led them in an interactive workshop to experience the Earth Charter. Participants explored the Earth Charter´s four interrelated pillars: (1) Respect and Care for the Community of Life, (2) Ecological Integrity, (3) Social and Economic Justice, (4) Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace, and then learned the incredible story of its creation which stands as the most participatory process of any document in history.

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The group then traveled to Puerta a la Vida, a unique eco-lodge in Puntarenas Costa Rica, where the group spent several days in ceremony, dialogue, and exploration. Dialogue sessions were facilitated by mentors who gave space to youth leaders to open discussions on topics related to their work. Topics included the impact of Climate Change on the Americas and Caribbean, loss of indigenous knowledge, and grassroots efforts to create change.

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Mentors Venerable Chang Ji, Jana Long, Dena Merriam, Mirabai Starr, and Hanne Marstrand Strong shared wisdom from their various traditions and experiences. Mentors Sraddhalu Ranade from India and Tiokasin Ghosthorse from the Lakota Nation in North America brought in systemic and biocentric perspectives to deconstruct colonial, oppressive, and anthropocentric paradigms and language to shift, expand, and deepen the conversations.  In one example, Tiokasin shared that he considers the famous statement ¨I think, therefore I am¨ is to be lost. He and his tribe instead live by ¨I thank, therefore I am—We thank, therefore we are.¨ He begins each day giving thanks to water, a word which in his native language of Lakota roughly translates to ¨the life energy that flows between us.¨

sunset_puerta_de_la_vida

The retreat closed with a ceremony of gratitude where each person chose to take with them a small, symbolic object that another had brought, bonding the participants to one another and the experience. This gathering was the second in the series of regional retreats; The first retreat was held in Marrakesh, Morocco in November of 2016 with African youth during the COP22. GPIW, DDMBA, and ECI will continue organizing spaces to build intergenerational and intercultural networks of grounded, conscious sustainability leaders with plans to host the next gatherings in Europe and the Middle East.

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Tribute to Maurice F. Strong (1929 – 2015)

 “We are victims of ‘the struggle between ecosystems and egosystems’.
It is the egos of people, governments, businesses that prevent solutions and generate a terrible lack of political will.

 

Maurice F. Strong speech at the Earth Charter+5
November 2005, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

 

Earth Charter International mourns the passing of Maurice F. Strong, co-chair of the Earth Charter Commission. All of us involved in the sustainability movement share special feelings of gratitude and admiration for the unique role he played and brilliant leadership he provided over many years in the global process of social transformation.

As the Secretary General of the 1992 Earth Summit, founder of UNEP, The Earth Council, The Earth Charter Initiative and many other great movements, he was able to significantly influence historical changes, proven by the numerous conventions and international policies that emerged on the environment and sustainability over the past 30 years. At the turn of the century, Koffi Annan invited him to take on the task of revitalizing the University for Peace, to which he dedicated all his efforts as the Rector and the chair of the Council for several years.

As a member of the Brundtland Commission and Secretary General of the Earth Summit in 1992, Mr. Strong took on the commitment to carry the idea of an Earth Charter forward (which was a recommendation made in the Brundtand Commission Report and according to him an unfinished piece of business of the Rio Earth Summit). Therefore, in 1994, together with Mikhail Gorbachev he launched the Earth Charter Initiative and became the co-Chair of the International Commission.

We would like to stress his unique ability to communicate with people from all walks of life and his tireless commitment and vision towards elevating the voices of non-state actors in the international policy arena. The fact that Agenda 21 has a whole section on The Role of Major Groups, which has subsequently opened up many possibilities, is in great part due to his capacity to envision a new multi-stakeholder process of decision making.

In light of the opening of COP21, it seems appropriate to take a moment to reflect on some of the messages he used to convey:

“We know what we should do; science and technology can help us to do it. We know the solutions and we know what to do in the future. But we are not doing it. We are not able to make the transition to a sustainable way of life. Moral, ethical and spiritual responsibility hangs on today’s generation and emerging generations. We must reach into the hearts and souls of all people, and work with them for what we all want: a healthy whole community, happy children, and a secure life on Earth.”

 

Maurice F. Strong, Earth Charter+5 Event,
November 2005, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Following in his footsteps, we would like to move ahead with determination and a deep sense of intergenerational commitment to carry forward the great work that he started and that we still have ahead of us, which is to continue to influence the process of changing the development model through the awakening of a new global consciousness.

We want to express our condolences and sentiments to his family, friends, and past colleagues and above all remember and celebrate his life with gratitude.

Earth Charter International Secretariat and Council

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“I want to thank Mr. Strong for everything he has done. A leader is someone who has a vision to make things better and dedicates all possible efforts to make it happen gathering the cooperation of many. A leader is able to communicate that vision well, inspire and engage many, and influence processes of change. Mr. Strong did that in an outstanding way. I feel deep admiration, respect, and gratitude to him for his consistency over the years, for his vision, and life dedication to address the world´s environmental challenges and make sustainability a reality.”

Mirian Vilela, Executive Director, Earth Charter International

“We have read with sadness and empathy of the passing of Maurice. We are all indebted to his leadership on environmental issues these many years.
May his work live on! We send our prayers and deepest sympathy to his family.”

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology

Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau’s statement.

Al Gore’s statement.

UNEP statement.

The Guardian article, Maurice Strong: A Sustainable Life by Felix Dodds

The New York Times article AP, UN: Maurice Strong, Climate and Development Pioneer, Dies

A tribute from Ronald Leger.

Please, feel free to leave a tribute message of your own in the comment section below.

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Earth Charter International partners for climate change theater production

The Little Theatre Group of San Jose, Costa Rica, with the support of Earth Charter International, recently participated in an international Climate Change Theatre Action with more than 100 other groups around the world to raise awareness through the art of theatre on the issue of climate change before the Conference of Parties in Paris (COP21) at the end of November 2015. ECI was inspired to join the effort by the Earth Charter principle 14 b., which states, “Promote the contribution of the arts and humanities as well as the sciences in sustainability education.”

The Climate Change Theatre Action was a joint initiative among three organizations, NoPassport, The Arctic Cycle, and Theatre without Borders. Together, they organized this global Climate Change Theatre Action and more than 100 groups in more than 20 countries are participating, joining the Little Theatre Group and Earth Charter International.

The production by the Little Theatre Group was titled “Nature Acts”, adapted from a quotation by Voltaire, “Men argue, nature acts”. The performance consisted of both thought provoking and humorous monologues and short plays performed by actors of the Little Theatre Group and by actors from the University for Peace community. The production sold out all three of its shows and more than 100 members of the audience learned about the Earth Charter and took home messages about the importance of climate change action and sustainability.

Find out more here.

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ECI hosts final EC+15 webinar of 2015

On November 17th, Earth Charter International was joined by Nigel Dower, a senior academic specializing in the ethics and philosophy of development, environment, and international relations, and by Prue Taylor, an expert in environmental law and ethics for the last webinar of ECI’s EC+15 celebrations. The webinar was titled “The Way Forward: Earth Community and Global Citizenship”. This webinar finished a very important year for sustainable development and international relations. 2015 saw the agreement to the Sustainable Development Goals, strong ethical statements including the Pope’s Encyclical, and the webinar was aired only days before the beginning of the Paris COP21 Climate talks.

Nigel Dower focused his segment on global citizenship and broke down the concept and discussed the way people construct global identities and to what degree these are deep or shallow. He discussed the different ways one can be a member of a community including moral, legal, and political associations, among others. He continued on to talk about global ethics and relate that to the Earth Charter. He praised the value of the Earth Charter as a valid expression of global ethics and mentioned several of its core values that support that global ethic within the framework of the climate negotiations including valuing non-human life, the importance of sustainable livelihoods, and the vision of living fully.

Prue Taylor’s discussion began with her thoughts on the Earth Charter and then moved into a related discussion on the idea of the commons and its power to help shape changing worldviews and international policy discourse. She continued to explore the importance of the commons concept and link it to the values found in the Earth Charter. She continued on to speak about how these values are playing out at the international policy level in relation to the climate change talks and she also mentioned the importance of the emerging ethical statements by religious leaders and movements. Prue finished with a short summary of findings from a recent IUCN publication that she worked on titled “Ethics and Climate Change: A Study of National Commitments” and explained how morally weak most of these commitments are. She urged individuals to take a stronger moral stand and analyze ethically the implications of governments’ decisions regarding issues such as climate change.

 The question and answer that followed was engaged and interesting.

ECI is very thankful to both Nigel and Prue as well as all the other speakers and participants throughout the year who have made EC+15 a special year in celebrating the emerging paradigm of which the Earth Charter and the Earth Charter movement are a part.

You can see the replay here and download the speakers’ presentations as PDFs below.

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Canada’s election bring hope for renewed values

Guest post by Valerie Elliott, ECI Affiliate from iD2 Communications

Canada has just held its 42nd federal election. As an Earth Charter affiliate, I wanted to share some of my personal insights and my hope for Canada’s future.

I am not alone in feeling hopeful since the election of our new prime minister, 43-year-old Justin Trudeau. The son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who was prime minister from 1968 to 1974, Justin leads the Liberal party, a centre-left party.

Justin Trudeau’s election is exciting to many Canadians because for the past 10 years Canada has been led by Stephen Harper, a Conservative whose policies have been contentious and caused great division in the country. He did not support climate action policies, was a supporter of the oil and gas industry, involved Canada in war, brought forward policies that removed the rights of citizens and had a closed door culture.

We always hope that new governments will show great leadership and learn to adhere to Earth Charter values and principles even when they are lofty goals. Yet in the first few days since Trudeau’s election we’ve already seen a significant change in values that this prime minister will bring to the table.

The first very noticed change by journalists was the answering of questions in the press gallery. It is apparent that in his first days he is wishing to set a tone that is a contrast from his predecessor. In keeping with EC pillars of democracy, Trudeau made clear that he is looking for gender equity when appointing his cabinet and that he expects his cabinet to practice non-partisan politics.

Many promises have been made. Realistically, some of those promises will be broken, but there is no question that Canadians are eager to see a change in our culture. Transparency and accountability are badly needed in Canada and Trudeau has the opportunity to demonstrate what that could look like.

Trudeau has committed to reviewing our existing electoral system to strengthen our democratic process. He has promised to withdraw from the coalition battle against the Islamic State while maintaining humanitarian aid. He has pledged to attend the Paris COP21 climate conference and has assured Canadians that he will not turn his back on the environment. In contrast, under Stephen Harper’s government, where once we had over 2 million protected lakes and rivers, we now have under 200. Canadians expect to see much of what Harper did reversed.

Some pundits are excited about the election result believing that Canadians banded together to “vote for change.” My hope is that we will continue working to improve and better our electoral system to ensure sustainable improvements for our culture, social, economic, and environmental concerns. I love Canada but I won’t sugarcoat the fact that Canada must evolve. Many Aboriginal people, the largest growing population in the country, live in horrific conditions. First Nations’ homes are 90 per cent more likely to be without running water, and what water does exist is likely on a boil water advisory. EC goals, such as the right of each person to realize their own potential, are goals we must embrace and ensure our government takes action on.

The election showed us possibility. Canadians, recognizing that EC principles better our communities, rejected hateful bigotry in favour of compassion and a willingness to help refugees in need. Indigenous people voted, many for the first time, and a total of 10 indigenous MPs were elected. Voter turnout in rural areas was the highest it’s been in years. Women are expected to be more equally represented both in the cabinet and within the government. And while Harper strategists worked hard to create division through values, they instead found confirmation about what the majority of Canadians want and are now demanding: inclusion; acceptance; respect; care; and equality. We are at a turning point and Canada is set to flourish through the EC values that will result.

UPDATE: I wrote this article the day of the election. Since then, Prime Minister Trudeau has been sworn in and his cabinet appointed, with exactly a 50/50 split in gender, representation of Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and more. Canada is extremely hopeful at present.

Photo of Justin Trudeau by Alex Guibord

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ECI hosts fifth EC+15 webinar of 2015

On November 5th, 2015, Earth Charter International held its fifth webinar in a series of online events to celebrate the Earth Charter’s 15th anniversary. ECI held the event in the Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development in Costa Rica on the University for Peace campus. The event was attended by more than 50 people from the UPEACE community with another dozen joining in online.

The special guest speaker was Mr. Jan Pronk, former Dutch Development Cooperation Minister and Former Minster for Environment, a hands-on leader in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. Mr. Pronk was also the Chairman of the 6th Conference of Parties UN Convention on Climate Change (2000-2001) and Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2001-2003). He is now a Special Advisor to the Earth Charter International.

Mr. Pronk took about 30 minutes to talk about his experience and observations of climate policy over the last 20-plus years. He described the history of climate negotiations, stressing the importance of achievements in policies developed in the 1990s, especially the articulation of five major terms or principles: 1) The Precautionary Principle; 2) Common but Differentiated Responsibilities; 3) Responsibilities beyond national borders; 4) Sustainability; and, 5) Fair and equitable solutions. He also emphasized the importance that the Kyoto Protocol negotiations managed to agree on a binding treaty and the fact that we cannot rely on voluntary agreements only. He continued to describe the deficits in the current process and measures to be taken at the COP21 in Paris starting at the end of November. Mr. Pronk highlighted the drawbacks to the voluntary carbon reduction strategy, the necessity of questioning the right to comfort lifestyles by the wealthy countries, and he lamented what he observes to be an inadequate response to the climate challenge by states in the current negotiations.

The observations and explanations by Mr. Pronk were followed by more than 45 minutes of questions and answers by both the audience in the room and the online participants. The back and forth was lively and informative. Mostly, Mr. Pronk offers a pessimistic opinion of the prospects for a good climate deal and, although he doesn’t spell out consequences, he cited Darfur and Syria as being examples of climate change exacerbated tragedies. While he also didn’t explicitly state it, his talk implies his thinking that more of these occurrences will take place in the future. Speaking about the Earth Charter +15 slogan, “One Earth Community, One Common Destiny”, Mr. Pronk shared the feeling that on one hand this notion is a dream and on the other it is a fact. He expressed concern about who is to decide global society’s common destiny, and that present-day consequences might not affect the whole world community in the same way. He also placed an emphasis on the predominance of globalization as a market phenomenon, and lamented that the market paradigm frames the global mindset, making the “Earth Community” more of an Earth marketplace than a community. He also stated that while the idea of the Earth Community is a vision, it is also a reality, only one that has not embraced the values of the Earth Charter.
 
You can see and hear the recording of the session here.

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Two more webinars in November, one on climate change, the other on global citizenship



Earth Charter +15 Webinar

From Rio ‘92 to COP21 Paris: Challenges and Opportunities
for Climate Change Politics and Policies

On November 5th, 2015 ECI will host the fifth in a series of webinars in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Earth Charter. This time we will be joined by former Dutch Development Cooperation Minister and Former Minster for Environment Jan Pronk, a hands-on leader in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations.

More information here.

Earth Charter +15 Webinar

The Way Forward: Earth Community and Global Citizenship

On November 17th, 2015, ECI will host its sixth webinar in a series that began in February to celebrate the Earth Charter’s 15th anniversary, to look back, observe the current issues of relevance to the Earth Charter, and to look ahead to the future of sustainability work and ethics. We will be joined on November 17th by Nigel Dower, a senior academic specializing in the ethics and philosophy of development, environment, and international relations, and by Prue Taylor, an expert in environmental law and ethics.

More information here.

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Celebrating EC+15 with a climate change walk in Kenya

On September 25th, 2015, the Green Belt Movement, Earth Charter Affiliate in Kenya, celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Earth Charter with a Climate Change walk in Kitale town, parallel to Professor Wangari Maathai’s fourth memorial anniversary walk in Nairobi.  This event was organized in collaboration with Green Cross Sweden.

The walk aimed at mobilizing communities to raise their voice on climate change and engage local leaders to address this global issue. Individuals and organizations were also called upon to endorse the Earth Charter, which calls for a global partnership for a just, sustainable and peaceful world. More than 300 people endorsed the Earth Charter and 2000 flyers about the Earth Charter were distributed.

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We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future.
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